Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Reign Movin’ on Up at the Bizzart, Another Night at the Culture Rapide and a Peculiar Performer’s Phenomenon

October 16, 2010

Reign Morton popped up again last night at the Bizz’art venue on the Quai de Valmy, singing in the Sankofa Soul Competition. This is a huge French singing competition for soul music, and it was designed to help show off the young, new talent in France, train the talent and reward the talent. First prize is an all expenses paid trip to a singing academy in Texas.

paris sankofa soul competition poster

paris sankofa soul competition poster

Reign, readers of this blog will remember, has blown me out of my seat in recent weeks at the Tennessee bar, and I guess my sense of things is not too far off, as Reign has also been blowing the judges and voting spectators out of their seats at the Bizz’art (which is not the same as the Bizart I wrote about recently), and he has been working his way through the various levels of the competition. Last night, he came in first place amongst the nine or so competitors and he therefore moves on to the quarter finals of this competition.

It turned out that the Bizzart was within a 15 minute walk from the open mic I intended to take part in, the Culture Rapide open mic in Belleville, so I decided to drop in to hear Reign first. I managed to arrive in this crowded, dark venue with a bar and cocktail tables on the ground floor and a mezzanine with diners at white-table clothed tables above. I immediately liked the vibe and felt like I was in New York or L.A. And I got there just in time. I heard one of the competitors, and then she was immediately followed by Reign.

So I ordered my beer and made my way to the side of the stage as close as I could get – which was not real close – and I managed to film all of Reign’s performance. Blew me and the crowd away. Check out my video, and keep in mind that I only had one hand available and had to raise it high – so the camera is shaky. Reign’s performance was very full, very complete, with the style of singing drawing the best out of him and never being monotonous, and then he moved into some fine dancing bits, got the audience participating both vocally and with hand clapping. A maestro performance.

I was a little worried when the guy after him did a good job of a real tear-jerker song, but I suppose the judges were smart enough to see that as good as that guy’s performance was, it was not the whole complete number that Reign produced. Because Reign won the night.

I had a real debate with myself whether I should stay and watch his second number, but I decided that ultimately I’m out there to perform myself, and not only to keep these blog notes about it. So I left, thinking Reign was certainly the best and if he didn’t win it would be through some trick or ruse of another wiley performer – or a failure on the judges’ part.

I said hello to Reign and after a real warm bear-hug greeting from him right after he got off the stage, he went off and ducked out into a seat in the audience and retreated into himself. I figured that was exactly where he should be, and I left and went to the Culture Rapide.

There I performed two songs, “Just Like a Woman,” and then my own song, “Since You Left Me.” There were not very many performers, but the audience was kind and good and kept quiet during my first song, and a couple of people asked me if I would perform another later – you only do one each set – and I said I would. It then turned out there was a third set, but I had suddenly become swamped by a feeling of “I want to get out of here.”

It’s a weird feeling that I sometimes get after performing, and it’s a kind of alienating thing, where you suddenly withdraw into yourself after you’ve been so expansive on stage and let out all your emotions and reached out and flown into the stratosphere or whatever that place is that you reach on stage when things go well and you feel painted to the stage. Today I went to Reign’s Facebook page and found that he had put up a thing where he said in his status: “Reign Morton wonders why he gets so shy when he comes off stage after a performance… after being so exposed like that, the first thing i want to do is climb into a little hole and block out the sun. Is that normal?”

And I realized that was exactly the same thing I feel sometimes. I jokingly responded that this is just a form of “postcoital depression.” But I actually think it is a form of that same phenomenon: It’s the come down from the high moment on stage. Dare I compare it to a cocaine crash landing, or other drug thing. Fortunately it does not last long or even always happen. But it does sometimes. And, yes, I’d say it’s perfectly natural. But I probably should have stayed to perform again last night in the third set – instead I walked off the postcoital depression through the dark and cold Paris streets. Did the trick.

Let’s hope Reign wins the full competition. Check out the video I did of his song last night and you get an idea of why he won.

When it Reigns it Pours, At the Tennessee

October 5, 2010

A wild, absolutely mad evening at the Tennessee. When it rains the puddles collect water and grow, right? That’s how it seems to be happening at the Tennessee bar these days as Reign Morton has a growing contingent of fans, groupies, and above all fellow musician friends following him to the open mic and turning the place into a happening of unforgettable dimensions.

I first wrote about Reign Morton two weeks ago today, so you can get the biographical details there. Last night, in tow – it seemed – Reign had another couple of great singers. But let me take a brief break to say that the evening at the Tennessee was, in fact, not ONLY about Reign and the gang.

I showed up there in a toss up between there and the Galway. I arrived too late and thought I’d have to wait for hours to play, so I cut out and went to the Galway. Fortunately, I got to play immediately at the Galway, and fortunately, because Stephen, the MC, had to change a string on his guitar and there was no other singer around, I got to do five songs in a row. Unfortunately, the small group of people at the bar was not in the least bit interested in listening (either to me or to Stephen). So I just sang for myself, and then decided to leave without finishing my Kilkenney.

I returned to the Tennessee, thinking I probably would not get up on stage, but that the level of the performers I had seen so far was high. And indeed, it went on and on. Among the interesting acts were a French duo consisting of two young guys, one on guitar – a beautiful Taylor guitar, no less – and the other on the piano. The one on the piano I suddenly realized looked almost exactly like Fernando Alonso, the Formula One driver. They did a fine song called, “So Let Me Go.” Another act was the trio with a guy on vocals, another on piano and the third on cello. I liked this a lot, but it was just a little too much “Star Academy” for me. Then there was Sood, from South Korea, who played his Yamaha guitar like a metronome, and did some pretty fierce vocals too. He also accompanied another singer, and that is the one I did a video of, but I should have done Sood on his own.

Another trio went up second to last, and that was some kind of French trio with a woman on vocals, a man on guitar and vocals and a man on bongos. Unfortunately they were a very “world music” together act and I was elected as the last act, the man to follow them. Just me and my guitar after this trio. I took to the mic and said the cards were loaded so my only choice was to try to do something, real, something true. Somehow penetrate the truth. Otherwise, musically, I’d be roasted. I did not know my first choice was going to be dead on the right one. I chose “Crazy Love,” and it turned out that not only was I in better shape than at the Galway – having had another beer or two – but Reign and his gang all knew the song and so they provided the choral backup, especially between the “Love, love, love”s… It turned out Reign told me he knew the Brian McKnight version of “Crazy Love,” not Van Morrison’s.

So just when I thought the show was over, the stage was opened up to Reign and his friends. And we never looked back. Mostly a question of improvisation, they came up with some fabulous stuff. In fact, Reign had previously done one Ray Charles song, sounding just like Ray Charles and throwing in the movements to boot. Now, he went on to a Marvin Gaye sound, a bluesman sound, and then a Reign-rap-and-I-don’t-know-what-sound with a funny improvisation about making up a song. A couple of groupies stripped down to bras and neck-scarf-over-the-chest-only attire, and the night went mad with dance, drink and music.

Reign gave over the stage to a guy from Senegal who calls himself Mr No Name, and who is damned good too, and I thought he was from Brooklyn or somewhere else in the U.S. Very cool. And then another great addition was the fabulous Sue Giles, who IS from Brooklyn, and who joined Reign and did some great back up and lead vocals. James Iansiti played rhythm guitar and Karim played his splendid lead again.

In all, it was a mad delight. Man, who’d have thunk it at the Tennessee?

Reign Morton Reins ’em in and Tears ’em up at the Tennessee Bar in Paris (as does Karim)

September 21, 2010

Okay, real fast now, because I HAVE to get this down. (But I had a very busy day playing, lunching and preparing for Singapore.) Normally when I write about the Monday evenings at the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub, I start of with some little thing about the Tennessee and then go into some long thing about the Galway. This time is different. I stopped off at the Tennessee, found too many people there and did not play, went on to the Galway, found few people there and played soon after my arrival; did three songs, and then decided to show a friend the Tennessee Bar.

So we returned to the Tennessee and there, that’s where all the action was last night, and it was a night I won’t forget soon. I got to play immediately upon arrival – as it was close to midnight – and I did three songs: “Just Like a Woman,” my own “Since You Left Me,” and Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” I sounded out the audience first to make sure there were not that many people who had already heard me sing the songs. The Galway had worked as a warm-up stage for me, so I was in full swing at the Tennessee. And good thing for that. When I got off the stage I was warmly greeted and applauded by an American who, it turned out, would go up right after me. And thank goodness for that.

For when I saw and heard this guy go up, I said, “What is this? Joe Williams has come to Paris? Or maybe little Muddy Waters or something? Or is it Stevie Wonder?” In any case, it was clear that the man I would learn was named Reign Morton, has a great talent, and he feasted us on it last night. It was only tonight that I learned that he is an actor, singer and a man on a world tour mission of some kind, and that I suddenly remembered probably passing Reign Morton in the street once in the Latin Quarter playing to enraptured audiences.

We exchanged names and emails, and that’s how I managed to look up this Reign Morton actor from General Hospital and musician sans paire…. (is that French? don’t think so, but as I said, I’m on the run to go out and play again somewhere tonight).

Anyway, the jam with Reign and a very cool guitar player named Karim was also superb. And it was Karim who closed off the night with a performance of the Satriani kind that you find occasionally on the Internet, one of those absolute technical wonders who just marches up and down the guitar neck like a three star chef chopping onions and bringing tears to our eyes.

Afterwards I said to Karim, “You play in a group?”


“Oh. What’s your name,”


“Where do you play?”

“In my room.”

Okay, if you’re reading this and you’re a guitar player, just like go quit guitar after you’ve watched the video below of Karim dancing up and down the guitar neck.

In fact, I had a video made of me playing “Jealous Guy” at the Galway, but I’ve decided not to put it….

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